Iraq: Shi'ite parties nominating new PM
Shi'ite critics accuse current PM Nuri al-Maliki of pursuing a sectarian agenda.
BAGHDAD - A bloc comprising Iraq's biggest Shi'ite parties is close to nominating a prime minister, the deputy speaker of parliament said on Monday, directly challenging Nuri al-Maliki who has refused to give up his bid for a third term.
Haider al-Abadi's comments in a tweet came after police sources said special forces and Shi'ite militias loyal to Maliki had been deployed in strategic areas of Baghdad after he made a defiant speech on television suggesting he would not cave in to pressure to drop his bid for another term.
Abadi is one of the people that has been mentioned as a possible successor to Maliki.
In his tweet Abadi said government forces were moving around the capital in anticipation of security breaches.
Maliki accused Iraq's Kurdish President Fouad Masoum of violating the constitution by missing a deadline for him to ask the biggest political bloc to nominate a prime minister and form a government.
"I will submit today an official complaint to the federal court against the president of the Republic for committing a clear constitutional violation for the sake of political calculations," Maliki said in the televised speech.
Serving in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election in April, Maliki has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi'ites, regional power broker Iran and Iraq's top cleric to step aside for a less polarising figure.
Critics accuse Maliki of pursuing a sectarian agenda which has sidelined Sunnis and prompted some of them to support Islamic State militants, whose latest sweep through northern Iraq has alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies.
MALIKI UNDER FIRE
Washington seems to be losing patience with Maliki, who has placed Shi'ite political loyalists in key positions in the army and military and drawn comparisons with executed former dictator Saddam Hussein, the man he plotted against from exile for years.
Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf reaffirmed Washington's support for a "process to select a prime minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner".
"We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process," Harf said in a statement, adding that the United States "fully supports" Masoum in his role as the guarantor of Iraq's constitution.
US President Barack Obama has urged Iraqi politicians to form a more inclusive government that can counter the growing threat from the Islamic State.
But Maliki, an unknown when he first took office in 2006 with help from the United States, is digging in.
"Now we can see unprecedented deployment of army commandos and special elite forces deployed in Baghdad, especially sensitive areas close to the green zone and the entrances of the capital," one of the police sources said.
"These forces are now taking full responsibility of securing these areas of the capital."
Iraq's Interior Ministry has told police to be on high alert in connection with Maliki's speech, a police official told Reuters.